Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK) shares were up handily on Tuesday after the company announced a key update from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency granted orphan drug designation for Lynparza (olaparib) for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
Lynparza is currently being investigated as maintenance therapy in patients with germline BRCA-mutated metastatic pancreatic cancer whose disease has not progressed following first-line platinum-based chemotherapy.
For some quick background: Pancreatic cancer is a rare, life-threatening disease that accounts for about 3% of all cancers in the United States. Due to the late onset of symptoms, patients are often diagnosed after the cancer has progressed to locally advanced or metastatic stages of the disease. Five-year survival rates remain low in the United States at 8.5%.
Sean Bohen, Executive Vice President, Global Medicines Development, and chief medical officer at AstraZeneca, commented:
Pancreatic cancer is an area of significant unmet medical need. This is especially true for patients with metastatic disease, where the benefits of current treatment options are very limited.
Dr. Roy Baynes, senior vice president and head of Global Clinical Development, chief medical officer, Merck Research Laboratories, added:
Pancreatic cancer is a relatively less common, but life-threatening, form of cancer. The FDA Orphan Drug Designation reinforces the importance of our collaboration in bringing Lynparza to patients in need.
Shares of Merck were last seen up about 1% at $70.11 on Tuesday, with a consensus analyst price target of $75.99 and a 52-week trading range of $52.83 to $72.89.